Push polling the frack ban petition and affinity for Ted Cruz

A number of Denton residents have reported on social media, the Frack Free Denton blog and to Sharon Wilson (who blogged about it here) that they are getting phone calls from a blocked California number about the initiative petition.

(Just now hearing that longtime residents have organized a petition to ban hydraulic fracturing in the city? Get up to speed here.)

I visited with Ed Soph yesterday and he said he got such a call early last week. He said the questions were odd. “If you knew the frack ban would raise property taxes …,” “If you knew it would lower property values …,” “If you knew it was sponsored by UNT students who didn’t even live in Denton …”

The pollster, who would not identify who they were working for, also asked Soph if he liked Ted Cruz and what he thought of the new University of North Texas president.

Soph said he couldn’t make sense of the questions, particularly the one about Senator Cruz, but could tell they weren’t meant to elicit his opinion.

I’ve started poking around campaign finance reports at the state and federal level, since I believe that state law would require such reporting such expenses under the umbrella of a specific-purpose committee.

Meanwhile, I think it’s important for Denton residents and voters to become familiar with push polling techniques, which have nothing to do with polling at all.

Russell D. Renka, professor of political science at Southeast Missouri State University, wrote a paper in 2010 about the different kinds of polling techniques. In it, he shows how push polls are simply a dirty campaign practice.

These dirty campaign practices masquerade as legitimate polls.  They are not inquiries into what respondents truly think.  Traugott and Lavrakas (2000, 165) define them as “a method of pseudo polling in which political propaganda is disseminated to naive respondents who have been tricked into believing they have been sampled for a poll that is sincerely interested in their opinions.  Instead, the push poll’s real purpose is to expose respondents to information … in order to influence how they will vote in the election.”  Asher (2001, 19) concurs:  “push polls are an election campaign tactic disguised as legitimate polling.”  Their contemporary expression through automated telephone calls led Mark Blumenthal of Mystery Pollster to call them “roboscam,” meaning an automated voice asks respondents to indicate a candidate preference, followed by a scathing denunciation of the intended target (Blumenthal 2006a, Mystery Pollster – RoboScam: Not Your Father’s Push Poll, 21 February 2006).  After a couple of attack-statements, it’s on to another number, hitting as many as possible for sake of maximizing the damage to the intended political target.  That, of course, is not real polling at all, which explains why Blumenthal shuns the very term “push poll” for these.

     Legitimate polling organizations universally condemn push polls.  The National Council on Public Polls has shunned them since they masquerade as legitimate queries yet are intended to sway rather than discover the opinion of respondents (NCPP 1995, A Press Warning from the National Council on Public Polls).  So has the American Association for Public Opinion Research, which recommends that the media never publish them or portray them as polls (AAPOR 2007, AAPOR Statement on Push Polls).  Push polls are propaganda similar to negative advertising.  They are conducted by professional political campaign organizations in a manner that detaches them from the intended beneficiary of actions taken against a rival (see Saletan 2000, Push Me, Poll You in Slate Magazine).  Some political interest groups also use them, often in a hot-language campaign to raise money and membership by using scare tactics.  No matter the source, they treat their subjects with contempt. — from “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Public Opinion Polls”

I’ll keep working on it and keep you posted. Keep me posted, too. I’d like to hear from people who get the calls about their experience.

Candidate forum broadcast schedule

The League of Women Voters Candidates Forum, held April 10 at City Hall with Sue Smith moderating, was taped for rebroadcast. DCTV has announced the broadcast schedule for that forum on Verizon Ch. 39 and Charter Ch. 191 as follows:

Tuesday, 9 p.m., April 22, 29, May 6
Wednesday, 9 a.m., April 16, 23, 30, May 7
Saturday, 2 p.m., April 19, 26, May 3, 10

The Denton Neighborhood Association forum, to be held Thursday, April 24, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall (215 E. McKinney St.), will also be taped for rebroadcast. It will run at both 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Thursdays and Saturdays at 4 p.m. until the May 10 election.

DCTV can also be viewed on Ch. 47-4 through your television’s digital tuner.

Campaign Finance Reports, January-March 2014

District 2

Glenn Farris:
20140411081554

John Ryan:
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Place 5

Dalton Gregory:
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Hatice Salih:
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Place 6

Greg Johnson:
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Mayor

Jean Schaake:
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Chris Watts:

Donna Woodfork:
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Denton area hosts make their own Final Four

The University of Connecticut Huskies and the University of Kentucky Wildcats will compete for the NCAA men’s championship trophy tonight at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. (Britney Tabor/DRC)

Of the eight individuals selected to host the four teams in the Final Four, four Denton residents are the last ones standing today.

Denton residents Roy Busby and his wife, Jo Ann Ballantine volunteer hosts to University of Connecticut Huskies and Chris Curtis of Flower Mound and Kevin Faciane of Argyle are hosts to the University of Kentucky Wildcats. See the original story here.

The Huskies and Wildcats will compete for the NCAA men’s championship trophy tonight at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

Busby said he “couldn’t be more excited” to host a team vying for the NCAA men’s championship.  He said being host to a team competing in the Final Four, one hopes that the team they host will advance to the championship game and coming out of the East Regional in New York City “we had a feeling that this might happen.”

“It’s just one of those great moments in life,” he said.

UConn is “a confident ball club,” Busby said and that was evident in the East Regional and when they fought back to defeat the University of Florida Gators 63-53 on Saturday.

“Nothing seems to rattle them,” he said.

The Kentucky Wildcats defeated the Wisconsin Badgers 74-73 Saturday to advance to the championship finals.

Faciane could not be reached for comment.

Both teams coming into tonight’s championship game have “great chances” at winning the men’s basketball NCAA trophy, Busby said. Tonight’s game looks to “be a very competitive and spirited game,” he said.

“The best team will win,” Busby said.

More details for city’s proposed bond election in November

I put together last Sunday’s piece on the bond election proposed for November to offer a window into the kinds of things residents are asking for, since they don’t always align with the list that the staff puts together.

As such, the story is meant to be a 30,000-foot view. But, at times, such views lack precision. And I got two emails from the city this week asking for more precision and I’m happy to pass this information along.

In December, Lindsey Baker tells me, the bond committee received a presentation which showed how much could be funded before the city would have to increase taxes:

Staff estimated in December 2013, in addition to planned capital spending for facilities maintenance, vehicle replacements and street reconstruction, an additional $31.8 million in capital projects could be funded without raising the debt service tax rate.  Staff estimates that a one-cent tax increase would facilitate a $50.8 million package, and a two-cent tax increase would be necessary for a $63.8 million package.

And city engineer Frank Payne offered this for parents who are requesting sidewalk routes along McKinney Street to Ryan High School and along Hickory Creek Road to McNair Elementary:

1.     You discussed the sidewalks on McKinney and the fact that the TxDOT project will provide them.  That’s true.  However, you stated that “if the city added sidewalks now, they could be lost in a few years when reconstruction begins.”  Also true.  What I specifically conveyed was that there was no way to put in sidewalks or trails of any sort in the space available without also improving drainage and grades, changes which would be very expensive, and that the walks would be subject to replacement when the roadway project begins.  It isn’t just about sacrificial sidewalks, which is reason enough in my opinion for the City to not put them in on a TxDOT roadway, but it is about doing advance work on the roadway (if it is even possible to do so) at great expense to possibly put in a pedestrian way that would be removed within a couple of years after its installation.

2.     You mentioned sidewalks along Hickory Creek Road to McNair Elementary and that they “are on staff’s list of recommendations with the bond committee, Payne said.”  What I said was that the widening and improvements to Hickory Creek Road was one of the proposed bond projects and that, if it is selected and approved by the voters, it will provide the needed sidewalks.  Specific sidewalks are not on a recommendations list to the subcommittee.  The subcommittee is being asked to propose Miscellaneous Sidewalks as they were approved in the last bond initiative so that staff can work on various projects which may or may not be proposed by the subcommittee.

 

Films from Argyle, Sanger advance to state

Films from Argyle and Sanger high schools will be screened April 16 at the 2014 Focus: University Interscholastic League Young Filmmakers Festival.
It was announced March 28 that the two high schools are among state finalists for this year’s UIL filmmakers competition. The films will be screened at Paramount Theatre in Austin.
The festival is a UIL pilot program that will include original films in the categories of narrative, documentary and animation produced by high school filmmakers.
Advancing to state from Argyle was a documentary film titled “Destiny: A Game for the Ages.” Matt Garnett, a junior, was the film’s director, editor, photographer, videographer and visionary, said Stacy Short, adviser for the film. Other students who participated in the project were: Darby Richhart, a senior who served as a videographer; Tanner Davenport, interview, general helper, grip; Maddie Moseley, videographer, grip; Jeff Short, sound, review, grip; Catherine Read, grip, editing/reviewer; Aubrey Kass, photography; Annabel Thorpe, photography; Josh Block, grip; Maggie DiVecchia, grip; Allie Hommel, grip; Mark Pfohl, review and Chase Kammerer, review.
Sanger High’s animated film “GOAL!” is also a state finalist. The film is directed by senior Tyler Sanders and edited by junior Hunter Bennett with junior Collins Jones as camera operator.
For a complete list of high school films advancing to state, visit bit.ly/1f1KHPD.

DFW air quality as a study topic for students

Friday afternoon I sat in on poster presentations by three graduate students at the University of North Texas organized by the engineering school — good practice for building their science bona fides and good practice for me in listening to scientists.

I was a little lost for the presentation on improving truck radiators with microchannels and frequently lost on the presentation about shape memory alloys, although we got to watch this very cool YouTube video of a bent spring coiling back into its original shape when heated:

I was able, however, to follow the third presentation on a study of DFW air quality, in part, because I’ve been listening to a number of these technical discussions for the past several years.

Graduate student Mahdi Ahmadi, working with his advisor, Dr. Kuruvilla John, downloaded the ozone air monitoring data from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality back to 1997, a total of more than 6.5 million data points, he said, and has been studying it for the past four months. (He is in the second draft of a paper that will be submitted for publication, so his talk was the beginning of a discussion that surely will include more feedback from his professors — I saw some of that Friday — and from the editors/reviewers of the journal that accepts the paper for publication.)

Ahmadi wanted to explore a basic question underlying a graphic frequently distributed by the TCEQ that shows gas wells going up in DFW as ozone goes down, which suggests in a not-very-scientific-at-all way, that the increasing number of gas wells is having no effect on the ozone.

Ahmadi adjusted for meteorological conditions to determine how much ozone DFW people are making and where. Such adjustments have been explored by others to understand better the parts of ozone-making we can control, because we can’t control the weather. He used an advanced statistical method on the data, called the Kolmogorov-Zurbenko filter, to separate the effects of atmospheric parameters from human activities.
According to the results, the air monitoring sites surrounded by oil and gas production activities, generally on the west side of DFW, show worse long-term trends in ozone reduction than those located farther from wells on the east side of DFW.
His spatial analysis of the data showed that ozone distribution has been disproportionally changed and appears linked to production activities, perhaps an explanation why residents on the western side of DFW are seeing more locally produced ozone, particularly since 2008.
In other words, Denton residents have long suffered the drift of polluted air from the south, but as our neighbors to the south drive cleaner cars and get clean ups from the cement plants and other big polluters, regulators should probably look again at the 5,000 gas wells and their associated equipment in Denton County to help clean up local air quality.
Most interesting to me is that Ahmadi also looked at ozone levels produced in the “off season” and noticed that those numbers, too, are climbing up. DFW ozone season is generally considered April-October, but if the EPA again lowers the standard to 65 ppb, that could bring more months, February-November, into our “ozone season,” John said.
Ahmadi and John said this study, for the first time, is demonstrating the long-term negative effects of oil and gas production activities activities on local and regional ozone pollution. We’ll be watching for the final peer review and publication of their paper and expect that others charged with cleaning up North Texas air will do the same.

Nightly closures at McCormick St

Crews will close the southbound lane of I35E at 9 p.m. tonight and again tomorrow (Wednesday) at McCormick St. to make repairs to the guardrail. They will re-open the lanes at 6 a.m. for morning traffic.

Extension in Stobaugh appeal filings

In today’s story, we reported that Charles Stobaugh’s appellate attorney, Wm. Reagan Wynn, had until today to reply to the Denton County District Attorney’s petition for discretionary review.

That is, unless he asked for an extension.

The DA’s office let us know a few moments ago that Wynn indeed has requested a 10-day extension to reply and they are not opposing the request, which would likely push the deadline to March 21.

We’ll keep an eye on the proceedings and continue to file our reports as new information becomes available.

Concept for convention center

The city’s partner in developing a new convention center and hotel on the University of North Texas campus was in town Feb. 18, primarily to meet with a group at UNT on designing the project.

If you recall from our earlier stories, it is the city’s intent, along with the developer, O’Reilly Hospitality Management, to design the project to 35 percent and then go out for bids to see whether both can afford it. (The city has been estimating $25 million for the 100,000-square-foot convention center and OHM has been estimating $60 million for the 300-room, full-service hotel.)

Tim O’Reilly and the architect made a brief presentation to the city council when they were in town that included flashing these conceptual drawings up on the screen for a few minutes during the council’s work session.

Conceptual drawing of city convention center and hotel

The council’s reaction was muted, to say the least. Both council members and the mayor said they understood that university officials were reviewing the design, and that it had to fit into the university campus (in 75 years, the building becomes university property), but they were looking for something bold.

They wondered aloud how it would fit, at 11 stories tall, between two other distinctive pieces of architecture: Apogee Stadium and the Murchison Performing Arts Center.

“This is the gateway to our city,” Mayor Mark Burroughs said.

It wouldn’t be the first tall structure in the city, of course. The towers at Texas Woman’s University and Kerr Hall, at UNT, are functional, as is the bank building downtown. Nothing there to win architectural awards or to catalog them among the great buildings of Texas, or even North Texas.

It doesn’t appear that the developer and his architect have teed up the convention center and hotel to be anything different than the other tall buildings in town.

When I was in Colorado last week, I traveled by a similar project in Loveland, shot a photo and shared it on Twitter:

Embassy Suites Loveland Hotel, Spa and Conference Center

Fellow staff writer Jenna Duncan, who covers the universities and business community, reached out to UNT officials to find out whether there was more to know about the design decisions and got this answer from Buddy Price:

It is very early in the design process and the exterior materials and appearance will be developed through the design process.  The renderings of the hotel/convention center presented to the city council on Feb. 18 are early studies; they generally indicate the scale and scope of the development. 

UNT, the city and O’Reilly all are working together on the project and we will build a facility we all can be proud of and that is a significant and appropriate addition to the overall campus and community. UNT will be a very active partner in this project and the development of its design.

Jenna tells me she is still hopeful that she will be able to connect with those at UNT who are involved in the process. We’ll report more when we’ve got it.